2017/2018 School of Chinese Research Students Seminar
The Aesthetic Uniqueness of Li Yu through His Attitude towards “Elegance”
December 1, 2017 (Friday), 5:30-6:45pm
Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
In the late Ming period, there emerged a trend of elegance-worshipping. Not only did the scholarly class embrace this practice, perpetuating this concept in both their daily life and in their writings, but wealthy merchants and officials also pursued “elegance” actively in their devotion to elegant objects. The chief reason for this phenomenon is great commercial prosperity and the accumulation of material wealth, along with the disintegration of the existent social order and the establishment of a new commodity-society relationship. During this process, the scholarly class became increasingly impoverished, standing on the verge of decline; whereas other classes competed to fill this cultural and political void with their economic wealth. To alleviate the sense of loss caused by status decline and the anxiety of identity blurring, the scholars tried to reshape their image by giving “elegance” a new meaning. Though this, they could build a distinctive self-image and categorize themselves from those so-called “connoisseurs” and “collectors”. The emergence of elegance-worshipping in the late Ming writings can be traced through the evocation of the word of “elegance”, which appeared frequently and became a critical discourse as well as an aesthetic standard of elite literati. However, it should be noted that the idea of “elegance” and “vulgarity” was not only used by elite literati groups, but also by ordinary literati who actively used these concepts to elevate their class identity and glorify themselves. Because of similar identities, ordinary literati had some viewpoint concerning “elegance” in common with elite scholars. However, different backgrounds and personal mental states made them different when evaluating specific objects. Li Yu is one of them.This talk will explore the aesthetic uniqueness of Li Yu by comparing his attitude towards “elegance” with the attitude of elite scholars.
ALL ARE WELCOME!